Detrimental Collaborations in Creative Work: Evidence from Economics
31 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2019 Last revised: 2 Nov 2020
Date Written: September 4, 2020
Prior research on collaboration and creativity has mostly assumed that individuals choose to collaborate because collaboration positively contributes to output quality. In this paper, we argue that collaboration credit premium—the situation when the sum of fractional credits allocated to each collaborator exceeds 100%—can motivate individuals to collaborate on a project even when the project is of low quality or when the collaboration diminishes its prospects. To estimate the causal effect of collaborations formed due to collaboration credit premium, we test our argument on a sample of economists in academia and instrument for selection into collaboration by exploiting the field’s norm of alphabetical ordering of authors on academic articles. This norm means that economists whose family name begins with a letter from the beginning of the alphabet receive systematically more credit for collaborative work than economists whose family name begins with a letter from the end of the alphabet. We show that, in the presence such credit premium, individuals sometimes collaborate even if this choice decreases output quality. Thus, when accounting for the collaboration decision-making process, collaboration could sometimes reduce output quality and create a misalignment between the incentives of creative workers and the prospects of the project.
Keywords: Collaboration, Credit Allocation, Creativity, Credit Premium, Innovation
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